Has the Fashion Blogging Bubble Burst?

Chiara Ferragni for Louis Vuitton

Chiara Ferragni for Louis Vuitton in 2012

The blogging industry has always been compared to the “Wild West” and rightly so. Fashion blogging in particular has a lot of characteristics of the Wild West, in that there are a few pioneers that have become famous and make great livings from their blogs – and the path to success has been wide open for anyone willing to give it a try.

When I first started blogging seriously in 2007, blogging was still considered new, unknown and a little bit rough. Over the years the amount of growth in the blogging industry exceeded anyone and everyone's expectations, garnering millions of visitors a month, and making money hand over fist. It appeared as though we entered a new age of digital media.

The Shift From PR Stunts to Business Strategy

The first blogger collaborations and events were seen as something of an experiment. Chanel flew a bunch of bloggers to tour Coco Chanel's apartment in 2007.  One of my first “I want to do that” moments in blogging was reading about Susie Bubble's trip to NYFW to attend the star-studded Gucci Unicef party in 2008. The notorious appearance of Bryan Boy in the front row of Dolce Gabanna in 2009 and  Tavi (and her hat) in the front row of Dior Couture in early 2010 started the wave of attention and PR potential bloggers could bring to a brand. Things had changed all of the sudden; a whole world of possibility opened up.

Tavi's Bow at Dior Couture

Tavi's Bow at Dior Couture

Anyone could make it if they have the talent, drive and dedication. Tavi started out in the suburbs of Chicago as a bored tween, and last week made an appearance on the Colbert Report (though still being asked about that front row experience three years before). The last few years have been amazing for our community: bloggers doing real advertising campaigns like Atlantic Pacific's Covergirl campaign in the September Issue of Vogue, or last year's outrageous Banana Republic runway show in the air. Bloggers locked down regular gigs with prestigious brands like Tiffany's and Estee Lauder, and some were able to command thousands of dollars for appearance fees during Fashion's Night Out. Bloggers and brands worked together in a gold-rush frenzy, each trying to top the last big project or PR stunt.

In my own experience, the deliverables became more specific, case studies more carefully reviewed. Then it became obvious that it wasn't just happening to me, as other blogger campaigns became more cross platform and involved, and yet somehow less and less extravagant as the year drew to a close.

I started to notice shifts in how bloggers and brands work together sometime over the summer of 2012. In my own experience, the deliverables became more specific, case studies more carefully reviewed. Then it became obvious that it wasn't just me. Across the board, blogger campaigns became more multi-platform and involved, yet ever less extravagant as the year drew to a close.

In conversations with fellow bloggers, they noted that brands were asking how return on investment (ROI) could be guaranteed, or asking for deliverables never asked before. It became obvious that the way bloggers and brands were working together had shifted from PR spectacle to revenue driver. Perhaps it was the economy, the retail industry had cut jobs at the end of 2012, when the rest of the economy was adding jobs. Is the honeymoon between brands and bloggers over?

The Blogger's New Establishment

We don't want to hear it. It's not as sexy of a story as “blogger makes tens of thousands of dollars for an appearance,” or “blogger gets comped trips around the world.” Yes, these projects are still happening for the top 1% of bloggers, and will continue, however, the spends on bloggers will rely more and more on the tangible ROI and track record of previous campaigns than they have in the past.

…businesses concerned with bottom lines can't continue to invest money for experiments without seeing concrete progress

This is bound to happen, businesses concerned with bottom lines can't continue to tank money in to experiments without seeing concrete progress. Brands are still learning how to articulate what they want from bloggers, whether they fall into PR or marketing – which is a big part of the problem. And, Bloggers are still learning how to articulate their worth, as well as manage expectations – which is the other part of the problem.

The era of the celebrity blogger lifestyle is on its way out. At least until, bloggers, both individually and as a community, can quantify how they can generate revenue to brands in to justify the expenditures.

The era of the celebrity blogger lifestyle is on its way out. At least until bloggers, both individually and as a community, can quantify how they will generate revenue for brands to justify the expenditures. At the same time, brands are becoming more sophisticated in how they track ROI, readers are becoming more sophisticated in how they engage with branded content, and that leaves us, the bloggers, to become more sophisticated in the products and services we sell in order to sustain ourselves and our blogs.

How This Will Be Better for Bloggers

Like with any gold rush, bubble burst, or whatever you want to call it, inflated sense of value and promise isn't good for anyone. It puts pressure on both parties to come up with a long term partnership. Figuring out what is actually valuable about your blog will be the first step in growing something that can be sustained and flourish. Not relying on one-off projects and being hot for a minute will help bloggers achieve longevity, and ultimately create a community built on purpose and experience rather than a frenzy of blind luck.

The Wild West inevitably settled down and built something much stronger than the initial promises of riches and fame (well, in many ways, it still offers both, but in different ways). The same thing is happening to blogging, and that's a very promising thing.

We just have to remain teachable, and adapt to the ever-changing world.





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About The Author

Ana is a Travel Blogger and Blogging Coach at The City Sidewalks. With her expertise in online marketing, she's able to help other bloggers, creatives, and entrepreneurs grow their businesses so that they can achieve financial freedom to travel the world on their own terms.

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44 Responses

  1. Shweta

    Thank you for bursting the bubble in a happier kind of way, Jeannie as I am working into revamping my baby blog. Its good when you keep a check on the reality with boosting up our confidences.

  2. Julia Dinardo

    It was as if you read my mind! I’ve been want to discuss this topic candidly, and glad you’ve opened up the gates! Totally totally agree- thank you!

  3. Lisa

    Kudos for yet another candid, thoughtful treatment of a topic that bloggers are thinking about but not discussing!

  4. Anna

    This piece hits the nail on the head for me, and makes complete sense. As a blogger and as a marketeer I completely understand why brands need more from bloggers – because they can. We’ve had 5 years though of technology advances that allow campaigns to be more specific, accurate and (most importantly) recorded. We’ve also had a global recession, so every £/$ that gets signed off needs to be accounted for – hence the need for precision.

    Where I think brands go wrong is asking for specific ‘sales’ success – this is not a blogger responsibility. Yes, if they are being paid/compensated then they should be able to give an estimate of the kind of traffic they will drive to a brand’s website but I have noticed more and more PRs/Marketeers asking for X number of product sales. That responsibility lies with the brand – if it’s a good product people will buy it.

    South Molton St Style

    • Jennine Jacob

      I completely agree with you about brands expecting bloggers to generate sales… it’s not really fair, as bloggers are publishers and not sales people, however, I’m seeing brands ask more and more from bloggers to justify the types of spends. I think a balance will be found, but it’s ultimately about being educated about the worth of a blogger’s worth in terms of how it translates into value for the brands.

      • anna

        Completely agree with you – and it bugs me that brands just go off unique user stats which really do not tell anyone enough about a blogger’s community and reach. A blog can get 1 million UU, but if their readers aren’t from the right places (ie: if they were doing an umbrella brand campaign and 99% of their readers come from the desert) then it is worthless. I always send my country reach and key word stats too. Huge bug bear of mine… that’s why I’ve started pitch and post

        South Molton St Style

      • victoria | vmac+cheese

        Great point and so true! Same goes for bloggers understanding a brand’s overall goals. If you have a smaller community, but they’re die-hard loyalists and leave tons and tons of comments on your blog, that can have value to a brand versus pure impressions and uniques!

      • Eat.Style.Play

        I really agree with this point as i read through this specific thread and maybe more brands need to realize that, and more bloggers need to see this comment specfically keywords make a huge difference and it’s important that while some bloggers want the work, want the check, if it doesn’t match with your brand then don’t do it because you end up having your readers wonder what the heck is going on here…and then you have the brand thinking “well that was a fail” lets move on the next person. I’ve had to turn down 3 opps in my blogging “career” if that’s even the right term because they wanted to pay me up front to mention something that had nothing to do with my blog in a blog post. They said I could hide it somewhere in the post by mentioning it, and I couldn’t manage to do that to myself, my blog, my brand or my readers.

      • Anna

        So glad so many agree – I’ve started a site with this point in mind: pitchandpost.com xxx

      • Tali

        This is very true! I see sometimes blogs that have a certain general theme and all of the sudden host a giveaway that has nothing/very little to do with the blog’s overall idea. I know from my own experience how it looks on the readers side, so I too, had to turn down numerous offers meant for example for beauty/motherhood bloggers, or certain products that were completely not me. I even got an offer once to write an article about a hair care brand with fat upfront payment. But I have a pixie cut! I don’t need all the products and services they provide. I was thinking hard about it and decided not to.. maybe I was wrong, but it felt right to me.

    • Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

      @Anna – You are SO right, I had a Fashion Brand approach me recently to host a twitter party and I know exactly how much traffic I can drive to them, but social media is about ENGAGEMENT, sales are what happens AFTER I drive that traffic to a brand, and the sales as far as I’m concerned is very much THEIR job! The fact that the male Social Media Manager was condescending and a bit of a misogynist to boot made it even more annoying. As a blogger, I’m already a Jane of all trades, PR, editor, photographer, account manager, CPA and more, now I’m also expected to crunch their numbers for them too? ENOUGH is enough!

  5. tasha

    Great points were made in this post. The shift has occurred and its time to see where it really will go. I remember when Ralph Lauren first teamed up with several bloggers for their pink campaign. I do wish more bloggers stayed true who they really are verse the main stream give me free c/o wearing ones now. I read post and everything has been given to the blogger.

  6. Bisous Natasha

    I feel like it is coming close to bursting because nowadays when I log onto Facebook, Twitter or Instragram all the bloggers seem to be doing is collaborating, being sent here by this brand, etc. It used to be Fashion Week collaborations and a few launches here and there. Now bloggers are name-dropping hotels and frangrances, etc EVERYDAY. I am happy for them, but can we get back to blogging once in a while instead turning sites into advertising boards ?

  7. Evan

    The bubble bursting means bloggers are now getting paid instead of getting wined and dined in place of payment. Getting paid got started with the top bloggers who’s closests were full from gifting. And it’s trickled down. Asking for ROI and metrics is a result of more brands getting on board, which is good for everyone. The bubble hasn’t really burst, it’s just shifted into a more mature publishing industry and now more competitive to get audience.

  8. Krista

    Great insights, Jennine! There is a huge shift happening on the Web – across industries. It will be interesting to see how it all evolves.

  9. Tori

    Great article and great insight. I jumped on the blogging train in 2010 but I still don’t 100% understand the industry. My most hated question from people is “oh you’re a blogger, how do you make money at that. ” it’s a million dollar question and I am looking forward to a more tame west with more concrete rules. Up until now it’s been all trial and error. I’m not looking to get rich quick but I am looking to create a brand with longevity. Thank you for the read!


  10. Lauren // thepearshape.com

    Brilliantly written and very thought provoking article. Makes you really think about your blog and what you want from it and if working with brands is even a direction to go at this point. I have also noticed saturation in the space and am hoping blogging shifts back to blogging to solve a problem, or provide direction, rather than for the glitz and glamour. But that is just one girl’s opinion 🙂

    Lauren // thepearshape.com

  11. Whitney Worthington

    I think the biggest thing is not thinking major brands, but thinking in your area, your community, how your blogging can help businesses grow and develop a following. That is what I have been doing here in Virginia, and it seems to pan out better for the long term!

  12. Toni Styles

    Very important article. This is the thing – you’re right when you say, “The era of the celebrity blogger lifestyle is on its way out.” Bloggers need to realise you can’t just be a “blogger” anymore; you have to leverage any success in a smart, strategic way in order to propel yourself into becoming a “celebrity” – as the ultimate goal. Period. Bryan Boy is a perfect example with his going into reality TV. You have to keep moving. Brands will never worry about a true celebrity-type being able to sell their product, they know it’s only a matter of time. We in the community might think this or that blogger is a “celebrity” – but are they really on a wide scale, outside of their niche and the blogging world? Brands I can only assume want massive influence. A see and buy reaction. The good news is, becoming a celebrity-type is much easier in today’s world and even more so for us bloggers already linked with top social media. Whether you become a Youtube star, Reality show star, Media personality, etc. – I truly believe striving to become a Public Figure with far reaching influence is what’s needed in order to survive. The bubble will not burst for everyone, only those who remain, figuratively speaking, inside it. This celebrity influence hardly ever happens overnight, so the advice I give myself and the IFB community is to be as original as possible, and persistent in that originality. Celebrities of all levels from iJustine (YouTube personality), to Snooki (Reality TV Star), to Jennifer Aniston (Hollywood leading lady and often typecast) offer something distinct and undeniable. There are too many blogs almost entirely the same and imitating the originals, and truth be told, possibly ruining things for them – brands may very well, view this as too risky and undesirable. I would love to see more fashion bloggers grow to become full fledged celebrities in and out of fashion!

    http://rhythmandruffle.com <3

  13. victoria | vmac+cheese

    This was a great read! And I hope it points to an issue that has been around since the beginning — that in order for your blog to become a brand and work with OTHER brands, you first have to understand it yourself, know what you’re offering, know your community, and most importantly, have a voice. In the bubble, it was easy for bloggers to assume that ‘if you post it, they will come,’ which I believe has set a lot of people up to be sorely disappointed (and unfortunately, quite hard on themselves). Having a strong voice not only attracts retailers and gives you something to leverage, but long term, it also makes your blog FUN and authentic to you, as well as a business. Win win if you ask me!

  14. The Savvy Sistah

    Great article! I think as a blogger working with brands you have to consider the “bottom line” and that’s, to make sure both parties are benefiting from the relationship. My goal is to build a successful brand who works with amazing brands! Thanks for offering great tips & wisdom to accomplish this goal!

  15. M

    Great article Jen. I’ve been blogging for a lot of years now (its been really so long?!) and I don’t see what I though I would see in 2013. More professionalism, originality, individualism…New products, new ideas!!!

    Maybe the change is around the corner. The formula includes, SUBSTANCE, QUALITY, CREATIVITY and BUSINESS.

  16. Stella

    Thanks for the article and I’m actually glad “the era of the celebrity blogger lifestyle is on its way out”. All blogs are becoming the same, all bloggers want to be stick thin and with a wardrobe packed with designer clothes. The original attraction of style blogging was to share one’s unique and everyday style, not convey the current fashion blogger’s cliché style.

  17. Sarah

    Great article. As an avid blog reader myself I am getting more and more tired of seeing bloggers turn into advertisements for brands anyway.

    I do see more concentration from brands on their SEO using blogs, which is a much less offensive way of a blogger earning a revenue, and also cost-effective for the brand – who can also see the result of their page rank creep up.

    • Jennine Jacob

      That’s interesting you bring that up, SEO, as I think those strategies tend to be more thought out and not as intrusive as some of the other types of blogger campaigns. Bloggers do need to sustain themselves, and native advertising is going to overtake banner ads even more this year than ever, so content collaborations will be a result of that. I feel like SEO offers the best of both worlds, meeting targets and being friendly to blogger content (provided it’s for the right brands).

  18. Erin

    The blogging bust is symptomatic of a much greater crisis.

    I am a style blogger. I am also a digital marketer. Prior to blogging (and marketing) I worked for years in the publishing industry as a staff writer.

    The concept of intellectual property–the monetization of valuable content–is becoming both less transparent and also intrinsically more complex as partnership marketing strategies evolve. It’s not just the blogging community that is struggling with this. Plenty of more traditional content providers and syndicators are between a rock and a hard place right now trying to figure out how they can sustain their business models in the digital era. Do you put content behind a pay wall? Do you harvest and sell user information to third parties? Do you increase advertising? (All while the precocious line between advertising and authentic content becomes further obfuscated…)

    Has content lost its value? (I certainly hope not…)

    Regardless, I don’t know how blogging–or even how content in and of itself–will sustain its value (both intellectually and monetarily) in the future. What I do firmly believe is that it requires both brand and blogger to recognize both the value and sanctity of this content. (If it’s genuinely good content, it should be worth paying for. Period.) I’m all for symbiotic relationships between the two, but at the end of the day, the readers come for the authentic voice, not a brand plug.

    In my opinion, if there is a positive side to this, it’s that this bust may serve to cull the wheat from the chaff. In other words, the future of blogging may mean a lot more hard work, with a lot less reward. No more easy wins. And personally, I’m ok with that, because for me blogging is an outlet for my passion–and not something I engage in for monetary gain.


  19. Charley Helfet (@ChicCheat)

    @Jennine Having read this article, I agree with @Shweta, in fact, I think it need not even be seen as bursting a bubble so much as the industry trying to get real and clarify exactly what’s in it for them. In a climate of economic uncertainty it’s not unreasonable to want to know if your investment will reap the desired returns. If anything the current economic climate has taught us that we can’t just B***S*** people about something’s worth without the risk of a disastrous shortfall in the end ( @Anna made a similar point in her comment). I’m sure it’s not all doom and gloom if you do have a big audience, and/or lots of click-through sales on somewhere like fashion traffic because then you can be a good advertising vehicle for a brand. The problem is getting that break and getting people who’ve never heard of you to see your blog, especially if you don’t have hours at your disposal to trawl message boards and forums, network avidly, cross-publish fastidiously so that you stand out/don’t get mistaken for spam etc. (Having to work a 45-hour week plus overtime means it’s definitely an issue for me) Logistically, it does feel as if the key’s behind the lock for me.

    Another thing I’ve noticed about the fashion industry in general, I suppose, because it’s a saturated buyer’s market, is that, “it’s all about fitting a brief” as the often-used mantra goes. I’d personally contest the choice of words, there, because briefs can be interpreted in all kinds of ways, whereas a lot of people in power do come with a preconceived idea of what it is they want and it’s more a question of jumping through those particular hoops. Like any art, it’s subjective – one man’s trash, and all that – but it sometimes seems generally frowned upon to try and be original and do something that doesn’t already have an existing, fail-safe business model. Even before the recession, when I studied fashion at uni, there was a lot of emphasis on fitting a certain mould otherwise – Shock! Horror! – who’d buy it? Maybe that was just a British fashion industry thing. I say that because another memory I have from uni was when the late stylist, Isabella Blow (you know, Alexander McQueen’s first major champion) came to do a talk. I remember her speaking about how she has no respect for the British Fashion Council, whatsoever. Apparently they found themselves something like £500,000 in debt so they paid it off by recruiting designers through Topshop – hence why fashion has gained such a strongly commercial angle in recent years. She said she deeply resented them for letting money get in the way of creativity, but that she thought the American Fashion Council were much better about embracing a creative angle, or at least striking a balance.

    I don’t pretend to have the answers, to know the best or even to know a lot, but I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents all the same.


  20. joann, sidewalk chic

    I think one of the biggest obstacles that fashion bloggers face is competition with content aggregation, particularly with Pinterest. I’m a huge fan of the site, but it probably has done quite a bit to diminish traffic (as well as ad sales and community engagement) to individual blogs — why visit several blogs when you can see 30 of them at once in pinned images? The site is more convenient, requires less effort in leaving comments or feedback, and probably exposes all of us to the fact that our content isn’t always necessarily unique. It does force bloggers to tinker with their content to make it Pin-worthy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better content or going to increase their traffic. It just means their blog community may have shifted to another platform, and they have to try to keep their attention there.

    I think a fashion blogging bubble has burst, but perhaps with bloggers who have overvalued their personal brand and services. But that doesn’t mean people have to quit fashion blogging because of that. Not everyone got into blogging to make money, or even prioritizes becoming monetized in the longrun, and I still think quality blog content will be developed by people passionate about their blog topics — regardless of whether there’s a brand vying for their sidebar space.

  21. Maria Von Losch

    Wow great article + comments! Puts things into perspective again for me. I wanted to use my blog to launch my services more than become a celeb fashion blogger. I admit, I started to fall into the trap of posting outfits of the day because that’s what I saw other popular bloggers doing but that started to feel unauthentic. I needed to be sure to stick to my brand, so I still do outfit posts but in the copy make sure to add my Savvy Style Tips (sticking with my branding). Remembering why you’re blogging, what your brand is about and who your audience is key. Sticking to that formula, for me at least, has now paid off with clients and side projects.

  22. SJP

    Very interesting post Jennie. I think it was only a matter of time before the excitement and ‘newness’ of blogging began to wane. Where once it was quite unique to have a blog (back in 2004-2007) it’s now very common practice, particularly fashion and beauty blogs. I think this year is definitely a shifting one for blogging, we’ll just have to see which way it goes…

  23. Sabina

    Thanks for this incredibly important article. So many people are starting blogs, thinking they’re making a career move. And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that as long as they know just what they’re up against. At this point there’s way too much supply and not enough demand.
    Your article pretty mush sums up the way I’ve been feeling, which I put in my last illustration post titled “Blogger hangover.”

  24. KT of KTRstyle.com

    Jennine – this is a really a great article and it brought a lot of things into perspective for me. As a blogger myself, well lets just say I started my blog because I wanted an outlet from my 9-5. It’s a hobby for me and it’s a fun way to capture my fashion diaries and showcase my hobbies of DIYs and my clothing pieces here and there and I enjoy seeing other personal style blogs for inspirations.

    Nowadays, when I go to those top personal style blogs, I see a walking advertisement. I understand people have to eat and put a roof over their head, but it used to be a personal style blogs with personality and real reviews that I can relate to. I miss those days.

  25. Ana

    I wondered when someone would write an article like this.
    My blog is not a fashion blog per se, but fashion blogging is one of my favourite forms of blogging and I’ve been following the recent changes with much interest… and questions forming in my mind.

  26. Christina

    Loved this post! It’s yet another reminder that nothing is set in stone and one must always evolve to stay relevant and profitable. And a beautiful way to add a silver lining to what could be easily be viewed in a negative light. xoxo

  27. FL

    Actually It’s very difficult to be a simple blogger who takes it as hobby, everybody wants to blogging for money and to become a web-star, this is the truth, let’s be honest guys!
    Anyway a contemporary good fashion blog needs a lot of time, taking pictures, editing, choosing the dresses..I think that It’s impossible to come back to the past with low tech pics and very casual outfits, is there anybody interested in seeing this on websites like Lookbook? I mean..Lookbook for example is a total circus for teens with SRL cameras, pffff It’s not a personal style share site!, It’s a creepy show!
    But It’s impossible to make a good blog without any compensation, because a good blog requires a good work.
    It’s a job but best blogs are commonly genuine and simple ones, and a job blog can’t be genuine and simple but soon becomes a big advertising space.
    It’s very complicated in my opinion

  28. slep

    fashion bloggers are the worst side of the internet, I whish they disappear, I don’t see any chance for new blogs, do you realize you’re too many and no every blog has a real style it deserves to be shared?

  29. Mike

    Blogging was not “new” in 2007.

    The problem with Fashion Blogging is that there are A: Too many bloggers now and B: The self-promotional aspect that blogging avoided for years has become part and parcel with Fashion Blogs, and it’s ruining the experience. Notice how there was not many Fashion Bloggers when there was no money or free products to be had. Everyone is trying to make money now and it’s bringing a lot of douchey people along with it. “New Media” types someone once called them Blogging used to be about amateurs posting about what they love….no ads, no dozen social networking ads across the top page advising you to check out their Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Instagram, etc. It’s no longer fun to look at Fashion Blogs compared to say, a blog about Italian Cinema run by a girl in her spare time who does it because she loves it.